The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

A joint venture between The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital


Research Projects

Project: The role of co-pathologies in the clinical presentation of prion disease

Lawson group

Prion diseases are invariably fatal neurodegenerative disorders that affect both humans and animals. Prion diseases are caused by the propagation of a misfolded form of the normal cellular prion protein. A unique feature of prion diseases is their range of clinical presentations, which affect memory and movement. While these features can be attributed to differences in the shape of the misfolded prion protein, we do not understand how or why prions with different shapes (prion strains) have different clinical presentations. Another recent observation is the presence of co-pathologies, or misfolded proteins associated with other neurodegenerative disorders that have either the clinical presentation of deteriorating movement (alpha-synuclein in Parkinson’s disease and TDP-43 in Motor Neuron Disease) or deteriorating memory (amyloid-beta and tau in Alzheimer’s disease). We propose that some of the clinical variation in prion disease is due to these co-pathologies and that the presence of co-pathologies is dependent on the shape (or strain) of the misfolded prion protein. We will investigate the role of co-pathologies in prion disease by assessing the behaviour (gait and memory), pathology (histology and western immunoblot analysis) and propagation of prions using our unique panel of mouse adapted human prion strains.

Image: Paw print analysis can be used to identify variation in stride, stance, paw print length and proportion of full paw print. In the paw prints of a mouse with clinical prion disease it can be observed that full paw prints were observed for the left paw, but only partial paw prints were observed for the right paw. An observation that is consistent with a gait abnormality.

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information and application enquiries

Project Supervisor

Associate Professor Vicki Lawson

Project availability
Master of Biomedical Science

Lawson group

3 vacancies

Host Pathogens Interactions
Cross Cutting Disciplines
Discovery Research
Public Health
Translational and Clinical Research

The Lawson group is focused on understanding how protein misfolding in the central and enteric nervous system gives rise to diseases such as prion and Parkinson’s diseases, with a focus on diagnosis, treatment and prevention, as well as understanding how the normal function of these proteins may contribute to diseases such as cancer. 

Lawson group Current Projects